top of page

New Racial Equity Index ranks Columbus #21 out of 99, ahead of Cleveland and Cincinnati

Updated: Jan 29, 2021

In a new index created to measure racial equity throughout U.S. metropolitan areas, Columbus ranks the best among large cities in Ohio. The index was created by PolicyLink, a national research and action institute advancing racial and economic equity. By considering multiple factors—like median wage, poverty rate, educational attainment, air pollution exposure, and more—the index offers a comprehensive rating at the state, metropolitan area, and city level that illustrates inequities by race.

The index puts Columbus at #21, with an index score of 61.8. This spot falls just above Denver and just below San Francisco. Cincinnati’s index score is 55.1 and Cleveland’s is 38.3, ranked near the bottom of the list at #92.

[The Racial Equity Index] provides a snapshot of how well a given place is performing on racial equity compared to its peers [and] …is based on two components: an inclusion score that indicates the extent of racial gaps in outcomes for a series of nine equity indicators (wages, unemployment, poverty, educational attainment, disconnected youth, school poverty, air pollution, commute time, and housing burden) and a prosperity score that indicates how well the population is doing overall on those same indicators.

By Sarah Treuhaft, Abbie Langston, Justin Scoggins, Joanna Lee, and Manuel Pastor at PolicyLink

The index uses nine indicators to measure equity, as shown in the table below. Because the indicators range from social outcomes, like education, to economic and physical aspects like commute time and air pollution, it captures an array of quality of life metrics that offer a comprehensive assessment of equity across geographies.


What’s the city with the best overall rating?

Irvine, CA

Irvine, California. With a rating of 75.6, Irvine is a city of about 290,000 people in Orange County, 40 miles south of Los Angeles. It was master-planned by the Irvine Company in 1971, making it one of the youngest cities considered in the index. The city has a large Asian American population (42%) but just 1.9% of residents are African American.

What’s the city with lowest overall rating?

On the other hand, Detroit is ranked lowest with an overall index score of 21. The city has a population of 677,000 (down from a peak of 1.85 million in 1950) and 79% of residents are African American.

Detroit, MI

How can cities improve their ratings?

While specific policy recommendations aren’t included in the index, PolicyLink writes that addressing structural racism is crucial to improving racial equity.

“Strategies tailored to advance just and fair inclusion for the communities most impacted by structural racism and economic inequality are not only the morally right thing to do — they are also the best way to ensure greater prosperity and well-being for all. Directing resources and innovation to where the need is greatest can create tremendous benefits that cascade up and out to the advantage of an entire city. But entrenched racial inequities are often obscured in policymaking and public discourse, making it difficult to home in on the systems and populations that ought to be prioritized.
National Equity Atlas
bottom of page